JEFFERSON — John R. Bove pleaded guilty Friday to kidnapping, raping and murdering 13-year-old Kara Zdanczewski in May 2017.
What he got in return was forgiveness from his victim’s father and a pass on the death penalty.
John R. Bove, 47, pleaded guilty to all 13 counts against him with the stipulation he be sentenced to life in prison without parole, Ashtabula County Prosecutor Nicholas Iarocci said Monday.
During the plea, Bove said he was high on crystal methamphetamine when he committed the crimes. He told the court he was using an unprecedented amount of the drug at the time.
Bove then apologized to Zdanczewski’s family, who filled the back of Common Pleas Judge Gary Yost’s courtroom.
“It appeared to me to be sincere,” Iarocci said Monday.
Before Yost sentenced Bove to life without parole, Kara’s father, Stanley Zdanczewski, told the court Kara was a “wonderful daughter” and is sorely missed by everyone.
He then turned to Bove and said, “I forgive you.”
Bove pleaded guilty to the following charges: aggravated murder with death penalty specification, three counts of murder, two counts of kidnapping, one of felonious assault, two counts of tampering with evidence, one count of gross abuse of a corpse and one count of rape, according to court records.
All of the charges stem from Zdanczewski’s kidnapping, rape and murder May 9-10, 2017, police have said.
Her remains were discovered the evening of May 11 in the woods off Austinburg Road, after Ashtabula police detectives questioned Bove while he was in the custody of the Sharon (Pennsylvania) Police Department.
Bove, a convicted rapist and registered sex offender, was arrested May 11, 2017 by Sharon, Pennsylvania police after fleeing Ohio in a stolen vehicle.
One of Bove’s evidence-tampering charges said he tried to hide the knife he used to kill her; the other accuses him of attempting to hide her body in the woods. The gross abuse of a corpse charge claims Bove burned her body after her death.
Prosecutors have said a DNA sample found during an autopsy matched a DNA sample obtained from Bove through a search warrant while he was incarcerated in Pennsylvania.
Prosecutors could have taken the case to trial and asked for the death penalty, but agreed not to do so, therefore not exposing Kara’s family and the community to the horrific details of the crimes, Iarocci said.
“In addition, the multiple appeals associated with any death penalty conviction in Ohio and the likely 30-plus years of delay in the actual imposition of the death penalty will be avoided,” Iarocci said in a press release. “More importantly, Kara’s family and the community can experience some sense of closure moving forward.”
Iarocci said law enforcement will continue to fight the problem and prosecute those criminals using and trafficking methamphetamine in Ashtabula County, but the county is in dire need of financial and other resources to do so.
“This tragic case represents another horrendous and despicable crime perpetrated as a result of the rampant and prevalent methamphetamine use in Ashtabula County,” he said in the release. “Persons using meth, also known as ‘speed’ or ‘go,’ are committing murder, sexual assault, assault, burglary, robbery, theft and domestic violence, to name a few.”
Iarocci expressed appreciation to the Ashtabula Police Department, Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Department, Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshal’s Service, Ashtabula County Coroner’s Office, and the Ashtabula Solicitor’s Office, as well as law enforcement in Mercer County, Pennsylvania for their work and cooperation in this case.
Bove's court-appointed attorneys Thomas Shaughnessy and co-counsel Ariana Tarighati could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.